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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Knowing Who Your Friends Are - Online and Off

Before I begin this edition of WHO AM I WEDNESDAY, I have a couple of things that I have to talk about.  The first piece of news is very good.  And the second piece of news is not so good.

First, the good news.  Mom is slowly, but surely getting better, and she's improving each day.  As far as when she'll be released out of the hospital, I have no idea when that will be.  The hospital wants to make sure that all of the infection is gone before they discharge her, which makes complete sense.  After all, the last thing anybody in my family wants is for her to get worse.  But all of us have been doing everything possible to keep her positive which seems to be helping.  I'm hopeful that she'll continue to improve, and I absolutely want to thank all of you for supporting us during this time.  Thank you everyone.

And now comes the bad news.  As my mom continues to improve, one of my friends has sadly passed away. 

My friend Tom from New Jersey is someone who I "met" online approximately a dozen years ago on a website forum, which I've talked about on this blog at least a couple of times.  He was someone that I felt instantly connected to, probably because he was a huge fan of Disney cartoons, as I was - his most favourite of the cartoons being "TaleSpin", which served as the inspiration behind his screenname.  You see, "TaleSpin" was inspired by the 1967 classic "The Jungle Book", and Baloo, King Louie, and Shere Khan all made appearances in "TaleSpin".  But of course, the creators of "TaleSpin" had to create some new characters to mingle with the classic Jungle Book characters, and one of those characters was a young teenage bear cub named Kit Cloudkicker who looked up to Baloo as a father figure.

So, my pal Tom decided to go by the name of Tom Cloudkicker.

Over the last dozen years, he and I interacted with each other in many ways.  I still remember him being quite happy when I finally did a blog entry on "TaleSpin", and linked the post to his Facebook page so he would be able to read it.  I think he approved.

Oh, but Disney cartoons were not the only thing he was passionate about.  He also had a keen interest in numerology - particularly his favourite number, which was "7".  You couldn't log onto his social media site without seeing at least one seven posted nearby.

He was also very keen on rescuing and saving domestic animals.  He would often post links from animal shelters encouraging people who lived in his home state of New Jersey to adopt animals.  His love for animals was that strong, and I always respected him for that.

Sadly, Tom had been having health problems over the last two or three months...and just a couple of days ago, he passed away at the age of 50.  And, let me tell you, he died way too soon.

I will always miss Tom's kindness, his warm heart, his creativity, and the passion that he brought to each day, and I only hope that he is finally at peace.

And this leads to today's

October 8, 2014

Did I ever tell you that I have always struggled with making and keeping friendships?  It's the absolute truth - or at least it was. 

These days, I'm really coming to the conclusion that I probably have more people in my corner than I have ever had when I was younger.  I guess in some ways, I was (or rather, I can be) too stubborn to see it.  I suppose that we all have days in which we all feel as though we're being excluded or left out, and believe me, there are days in which I feel that way.  But you know, it's taken the last few days for me to really get an idea of just who my friends are.

For instance, when my mother was admitted into the hospital almost a week ago, I had no idea that she had touched so many lives until I saw just how many people came up to visit her in her room.  And by extension, I really had no idea just how many people who were connected to my immediate family cared about all of us until this happened.

When you have a crisis happen, it can be one of the most frightening things in the world.  At the same time, it can also bring forth a moment of clarity.  For it is when times are tough that you realize just who your friends are.  Knowing that so many people are wishing us well certainly helps us out a lot, and I hope that they know that their love and support is very much appreciated.

And, I'm not only talking about relationships and friendships with face-to-face people.  I'm also referring to online friendships as well.  And I'm extremely grateful to have quite a few of those as well - some of those friendships dating back 12-13 years!

A couple of days ago, one of my best online friends, Tom, passed away, and it got me thinking about some of the other people who touched my life without me actually meeting them face to face.

Like my friend Pierette, who lost her battle with cancer in December 2011.  Pierette and I were very, very close.  She was almost sort of like an online mom of sorts.  She was nearly a quarter of a century older than I was, but there was something about her that made me gravitate towards her.  She was wise, thoughtful, and kind - but she also had a razor sharp wit and didn't take any sort know...from anybody.  If I remember correctly, she spearheaded the Christmas card exchange on one of the fallout boards that opened following the demise of Yesterdayland in 2003.  I still have some of those cards that Pierette sent me in the mail, and I will always treasure them forever.

I also have a fridge magnet of a calendar that I received way back in 2007 from another online friend named Rosemary.  She went by the screenname of TexasRose because she was named Rose, and she was from the state of Texas (I believe she lived near the Houston area).  And believe it or not, she was born in the year 1936!  I mean, here was a woman who was in her late sixties using the Internet a lot better than some kids in their teens!  She was the very definition of "cool grandmother".

(Of course, you never dared call her Grandma...she would have sassed you over that remark.)

Sadly, that 2007 calendar would be the last thing that Rose ever sent us.  She died just three months later at the age of seventy, and I still miss her nearly eight years after her passing.  She was one remarkable woman and I feel like I became a better person just by knowing her.  Just as I feel like I became a better person for having known Pierette.  Just as I feel like I am a better person for having known Tom.

It's very interesting just how much of an impact online friendships have.  Some people dismiss online friendships because they claim that it's not the same as hanging out with someone at a coffee shop, but I don't see it that way at all.  As far as I'm concerned, my online friends matter just as much as my real-life friends, and I think anyone who has a healthy balance of both is quite the lucky person indeed.

So, I remember Tom, and Pierette, and TexasRose - as well as our other YL friends 55dodger, enjaydee, The Professor, and KB9KNO today.

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